EFF in the News
"The underlying motivation behind this kind of development is definitely alarming," said Parker Higgins, a spokesperson for the digital advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation. Higgins said that governments at the local, state, and national levels have all advocated to be able to remotely control phones before. "We've seen it before when police in Ferguson called a no-fly zone to keep media from capturing aerial shots, or when authorities in the Bay Area or Egypt shut down cell service during protests. There's no good reason to trust the government to control criticism of its own behavior," he said.
Updated rules adopted by the United States Supreme Court could change the way in which the government can obtain search warrants to access computer systems and electronically stored information of suspected computer criminals. In most circumstances, final approval of the rules is a mere formality. But this time, PayPal, Google, the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and even a United States Senator are attempting to block one of the new rules from moving ahead.
“It’s very disturbing when someone proposes technology that would take the power out of the owner or user and hand it to a third party,” Danny O’Brien of the Electronic Frontier Foundation said.
O’Brien worries the new technology could be easily corrupted.
“Where something that was designed to stop you from filming concerts can be turned around to stop you from filming police violence,” O’Brien said.
Last week, PayPal and Google joined the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation, among other organizations, in formally opposing the measure, arguing it will greatly increase the potential for abuse.
The changes, the group said in a letter to lawmakers, “give federal magistrate judges across the United States new authority to issue warrants for hacking and surveillance in cases where a computer’s location is unknown.”
He cites a case where entertainment conglomerate Universal pushed YouTube to take down a video a mother posted of her baby dancing to Let’s Go Crazy by Prince (RIP). Doctorow is proud that the Electronic Frontier Foundation helped win an appeals-court victory in the case. “It’s one thing when an entertainment company is negotiating with Harry Potter’s publisher for the right to do a Harry Potter ride at a theme park. (2) It’s another when there’s some teen in her basement in Calgary, writing and posting Harry Potter fan-fic.”
"I think it's lost on most people how much of their activity online is tracked and cataloged and can be made available on a day-to-day basis," said Mark Rumold, senior staff attorney at the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation. "Information disclosed to Google can be as diverse as the thoughts that are in your mind."
Mark Rumold, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation told Motherboard in a phone call, “The government is never shy about asserting its classification authority as broadly as it wants to.”
For starters, people know if their blinds are broken and have a chance to fix them. An officer looking through them is only observing what anyone else could observe. And "even if their blinds are broken doesn't mean you get to go into their house and search," said Mark Rumold, a senior staff attorney at the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation.
"The court's decision that you don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a laptop in your own home — people should be very worried," he said.
The size of the total pool of photos the bureau can access, which was not clear until the new report from the Government Accountability Office, is shocking even to those who have been paying close attention to the FBI’s growing use of biometric data, says Jennifer Lynch, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. And the degree to which the FBI has access to photos in state-owned face image databases, which contain mostly driver’s license images, has Lynch and other privacy advocates concerned.
The rest of the data comes from “the State Department’s Visa and Passport databases, the Defense Department’s biometric database, and the drivers license databases of at least 16 states,” according to Jennifer Lynch of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.